Microprocessor industry advances form the foundation for using Linux as an embedded operating system. Gone are the days of embedded designs that use 4- or 8-bit microprocessors; today it is just as easy and cost competitive to use 32-bit microprocessors with several megabytes of memory. The ever-changing pace of hardware innovation and obsolescence presents an enormous development challenge for real-time operating system (RTOS) vendors. With limited resources, these RTOS vendors make business decisions that often leave many developers unsupported. Developers always want the latest and greatest hardware and software for their new embedded designs while also requiring high reliability. Desktop operating systems provide the latest in software but lack reliability and require more memory and CPU resources. RTOS vendors offer reliability but struggle with software development in the ever-changing world of technology. This is where Linux comes in.
Linux offers reliability and efficiency, with a proven track record. Open-source code availability has spawned countless improvements, enhancements, and additions in terms of performance, functionality, driver development, and porting activities. Designers of embedded systems like open-source software because they often modify subsystem code for their designs. Linux supports Portable Operations System Interface (POSIX), which allows developers to easily port existing code. Linux is successfully ported to several microprocessors, including x86, SPARC, ARM, PowerPC, MIPS, and SuperH.
Initially, developers were apprehensive about considering Linux as an embedded operating system option because of its distributed development approach and a perceived lack of support structure. The support structure for embedded Linux has changed dramatically since 1999, thanks largely to the Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC), which was founded with 50 members in May 2000 and now has membership exceeding 125 companies. This consortium works toward standardizing and promoting Linux for use in embedded applications. In addition, several companies were founded solely for embedded Linux. These companies don't merely repackage distributions and sell CDs. They have a wide range of embedded Linux products as well as design and support services. Using embedded Linux, developers can design high- reliability products, using the latest and greatest hardware and software.